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Client Conversation: Why Design Matters // Margaret Gagglioli


Always bubbly and vivacious Evie Craig is the driving force behind the energy, optimism, and vision of Restart.  With every encounter and conversation, one can tell she truly personifies Restart’s values and vision.  


This semester Design+Make found themselves a unique partner in Restart and Evie. Restart is exploring uncharted territory.  When I asked her to describe her vision of this housing project and communal design intervention Evie informed me that this project is one of the first in the country, that offers permanent housing aimed at the largest growing homeless population in its own community and for kids who are being shut out of foster care. While this is a noteworthy project, one still might wonder, ”why design?” especially under specific conditions such as government funding.


After taking part in a charrette at the Kansas City Design Center in 2008 and 2009, Evie began to truly understand the impact of design on society’s wellbeing. During the early stages of enlisting el dorado inc to design the Restart Waldo Housing, David Dowell executed focus groups with potential future residents.  Hearing the young adult’s responses to slides of different architecture and environment typologies, Evie was fascinated by the obvious connection between visual and emotional.  Now aware of this connection, Evie realized that her organization’s housing had to be different; it had to be designed. Ultimately in order to elevate the resident’s sense of place and wellbeing, the building and its fixtures had to show that someone cared. Foreboding and limiting institutional constructions and aesthetics would not serve the vision of this unprecedented project.  Pursuing design, over manufactured products, Evie believes Restart was able to incorporate their  “principle of person and environment and . . . to engage in this really made us, as Restart, be faithful to that principle and not just give lip service to it.”


It is through this engagement and collaboration, that Evie believes designs that matter can be produced.  Working with actual individuals rather than just going to the store ensured Evie that all her thoughts, concerns, and principles were being heard.  In fact, the most significant thing Evie said she gained from working with the Design+Make students was the designer’s innate ability to consolidate all of their client’s principles into a final design in a seamless and effortless manner while still maintaining an aesthetic quality.  


To conclude the interview I asked Evie the ‘fun’ question, “What is your favorite place to be in?”  I could not have been more pleased with her response as it pertained perfectly to this discussion and the scale of Design+Make projects this year.  As a lover of outdoors, Evie said one of her favorite places was sitting on a bench along a trail near her home.  As the trail’s environment changes, the benches’ design changes in order to fit the context and landscape.  This proves that without being in a larger designed space one can feel a sense of place and well-being from a design intervention as small as a park bench. She went on to say that , “ultimately it’s that somebody cared enough to think about it and that makes you feel kind of protected – it’s unconscious but it’s there.”


We strive to do just this in Design+Make; We show we care through collaboration, inquiry, partnership, and considerate craft.  And no matter what the scale, design has the power to attract, repel, influence, communicate, and protect.  Ultimately design matters when we care.  


Written by Margaret Gagglioli

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